Four Words Killing Your Progress: “When I Was Younger…”

If there’s any statement I hear clients lament over, it’s said equally with regard to dieting as it is with general exercise: “When I was younger…”

I have found this to be one of the most damaging statements you can dwell on if you actually want to get something accomplished.

I’ll start with exercise.

While I do tend to hear guys complain more about this than women, both share the sentiment.

“When I was younger, I could bench XX pounds!”

“When I was younger, all I had to do to get in shape was run!”

“When I was younger, I did hundreds of push-ups and sit-ups every day and looked great!”

Though the verbiage may change slightly, the sentiment is 100% the same.

And then of course, there’s diet.

“When I was younger, I could eat whatever I wanted and not gain weight!

“When I was younger, I could eat bread and pasta with no side effects at all. Now, when I even look at those foods, I gain 5 pounds!”

“When I was younger, I lost a ton of weight on The Atkins Diet!”

And, to be fair, it is tough having to remind ourselves that the aging process will come whether we like it or not. So we spend an inordinate amount of time waxing nostalgic.

The general argument, of course, is how we accept or refute our reality and what we decide to do about it.

What I find myself reminding my clients about is: the game changes (slightly) as we age. Yes, hormones will start to wreak havoc on both genders (with women typically struggling more through the perimenopause/menopause stage of life) but we still have to make adjustments along the way to stack the deck in our favor.

Exceptions being what they are, I will acknowledge those individuals who find their former successes to be motivating enough to spark positive change. Maybe they have a flattering picture of their former self in a bathing suit or they’ve held on to a pair of jeans or a dress that they’re bound and determined to fit into again.

So, here’s a cheat sheet to get your head out of the rearview and start focusing on what works now.

  1. Acknowledge that whatever decade of life you’re working from, the journey may be slightly slower than it has been before. If you’re in your 40’s, 50’s, 60’s or beyond, lamenting about what life and progress were like in your 20’s, consider that the 20 (or more) year gap has brought on a great deal of physical, emotional and social change in your life. This makes you…normal.
  2. Consider that the amount of food you could eat, efficiently metabolize and still look like a Greek god/goddess has likely changed. This means that as you get older you will have to…eat.less. This is a by-product of generally being more sedentary and having less muscle mass. So, even though your hunger levels haven’t changed, the calories you can consume without gaining weight have probably dropped. Side note: strength training and consistent exercise will give you a slight buffer in terms of how much you can eat but don’t get carried away with that. Many people vastly overestimate how hard they train and try to reward themselves with food portions with the justification of “I worked really hard today, I’ve earned this!” No. You didn’t.
  3. Whatever you could lift, distances you could run, and exertion you could formerly thrive under have likely all changed. Yes, you might be able to work your way back to those numbers with a bit more strategic planning but, at what cost? The responsibilities you had when you were in your twenties are probably just a slight, eensy-weensy bit different when you’re closer to retirement age or beyond. Sure, you might be able to regain some of your former glories but you also might acquire an injury that takes you longer to recover from. That sounds like a pretty tough bargain to make. Is it worth it?
  4. Celebrate what you have and stop berating yourself for what’s gone. The past can be a great teacher. The experience you gained from the past can help you with what you’re trying to accomplish now. The fact that maybe weight doesn’t come off or strength doesn’t increase as quickly as it used to can actually be a blessing in disguise. When we’re younger, we tend to take advantage of things that once came so easily to us. Now that we’ve got some years under our belts, going slow(er) may make you appreciate the nuances of what you need to focus on to succeed.
  5. Diets tend to have diminishing returns when clients attempt to reintroduce them. That can be said for low-carb, Whole30, keto, Weight Watchers, etc. I see a lot of people bounce in and out of these diets for the basic premise that they were not sustainble to begin with but they had favorable results. The problem that I find happening is that many people will modify the diets to make them more sustainable but become lax with the rigid rules. Find a way to eat that allows you to live within reason and your current lifestyle.

Last but not least is a picture of Pam. She’s been absolutely rocking her strength workouts and her weight loss efforts. She doesn’t complain about what used to be. She doesn’t diet-hop. She is not a victim to her past but rather has embraced who she is now and is reaping the rewards. I’d call that an inspiration.

“We Make Great People Greater”